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New Ulm, Diocese of


Established Nov. 18, 1957, the Diocese of New Ulm (Novae Ulmae ), a suffragan see of the Archdiocese of st. paul-minneapolis, comprises a 15-county area in western Minnesota. Alphonse J. Schladweiler, the first bishop, served for 18 years from Jan. 30, 1958, until his retirement on Dec. 23, 1975. He died at the age of 93 on April 3, 1996.

The first church in New Ulm, begun in 1858, was destroyed before completion during the Sioux uprising in 1862. Alexander Berghold became the first resident pastor (January 1869). In 1870 a second edifice was blessed in honor of the Holy Trinity. Construction of the third church (later the cathedral) was begun in 1890; the Romanesque structure was blessed in 1893. The diocese is distinctly rural. Most of the parishes are in small towns with numerous farm parishioners; some parishes are totally rural. At the time it was made a diocese, the only two cities, New Ulm and Willmar, had a combined population of more than 10,000 (1960 census).

In addition to creating the foundation for the new diocese, Schladweiler was one of the first of the U.S. bishops to respond to the appeal from Pope Pius XII to establish missions in South America. Under his leadership, New Ulm assumed the responsibility for staffing the parish of San Lucas Toliman in Guatemala. Later Schladweiler participated in all the sessions of the vatican council ii in Rome from 19621965, and after the council he was active in implementing its decrees.

His successor, Raymond A. Lucker, brought with him a national reputation in the field of religious education and pastoral ministry. Born in 1927 and ordained a priest in 1952 for the Archdiocese of St. Paul, Lucker earned a doctorate in theology (S.T.D.) from the University of St. Thomas in Rome and a doctorate in education (Ph.D.) from the University of Minnesota. He served first as assistant director, then as diocesan director of the confraternity of christian doctrine (19581969), and in 1966 he was named Superintendent of Education for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. In 1969 he was named Director of the Department of Education for the United States Catholic Conference in Washington, D.C., a post he held until 1971 when he was appointed auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

In his almost 25 years as bishop of New Ulm, Lucker shaped the structures of the diocese. He shared his own vision of the modern Church through active promotion of renewal movements such as RENEW, adult faith formation, pastoral planning, and lay involvement in the life and ministry of the Church. He was the first bishop in the United States to appoint lay men and women as pastoral administrators in parishes, beginning in March, 1981. Lucker brought the diocese into the national spotlight. He attended the International Catechetical Congress in Rome in 1971, and was elected by the Bishops of the United States as a delegate to the Synod in 1977 that dealt with catechetics; he was an alternate delegate to the Synod in 1987. A pioneer in the American catechetical renewal and a strong advocate of involving laity, including women, in ministry, he was much sought after by national organizations as a speaker. He was a leader in the nationwide development of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine and was advisor to the National Conference of Diocesan Directors (later renamed the National Conference of Catechetical Leaders). He was one of the founders of the Catechetical Forum, an association of catechetical writers, professors, directors and other leaders, and was an active member of the catholic theological society of america. An indefatigable worker, Bishop Lucker served on the National Conference of Catholic Bishops' Administrative Committee and the committees on Latin America, Evangelization, Diaconate, Laity, Catechetical Directory, and Charismatic Renewal.

Afflicted with melanoma, Bishop Lucker resigned the see in November 2000. Less than a year later he succumbed to the disease, Sept. 1, 2001, and was buried in New Ulm.

On Aug. 6, 2001 the Most Reverend John Clayton Nienstedt, S.T.D. was installed as third bishop of the Diocese of New Ulm. Ordained a priest in 1974, he was appointed an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Detroit in 1996.

Bibliography: j. m. reardon, The Catholic Church in the Diocese of St. Paul (St. Paul 1952). p. h. ahern, ed., Catholic Heritage in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota (St. Paul 1964).

[g. b. kunz/

b. huebsch.]

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